§ Report stage resumed.
§ Clause 13 [Tariffs and special agreements]:
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, perhaps we may now turn to Clause 13. This Amendment is concerned with tariffs and special agreements. The noble Lord, Lord Burden, has put down an Amendment (No. 8 in the Marshalled List) the effect of which would be to require an Area Board, before fixing its tariff under subsection (2) of this particular clause, to consult its Consultative Council as well as the Electricity Council. The House may possibly remember that Lord Burden and I debated this matter at some length on the Committee stage. The noble Lord had down an Amendment which went a good deal further, but after discussion he agreed with me that it would be better to confine his suggestions more or less within the limits to which he has now confined them. At my suggestion the noble Lord withdrew his wider Amendment and has put down Amendment No. 8. I can assure him that that Amendment is, in principle, perfectly agreeable to Her Majesty's Government. I hope he will not be offended, however, if I tell him that the draftsman was asked to bend his mind to the problem and has produced Amendments Nos. 6 and 7 which, purely for drafting reasons, may be preferable. The result is exactly the same as it would have been under the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Burden. I accordingly beg to move this Amendment.
Page 10, line 27, leave out ("Area Boards") and insert ("an Area Board").—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ LORD BURDEN
My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, for his statement. I recall his suggestion that it is risky to put down Amendments without very skilled advice, and I am grateful for what he has said in regard to covering the points which were relevant to this Amendment at the Committee stage. In those circumstances, I shall not move Amendment No. 8. Perhaps at a later stage—possibly when we reach the Third Schedule—the question of the composition of the Consultative Committee may be looked at. I think it would be wrong for me to raise 149 that matter now because this clause is not really concerned with that. May I again thank the noble Lord?
Page 10, line 29, after ("with") insert ("the Consultative Council established for their area and with").—(Lord Mancroft.)
§ Clause 30:
§ Placing of service lines above ground
§ 30. Paragraph (b) of section ten of the Schedule of 1899 (which restricts the placing of electric lines above ground) shall cease to apply to service lines; and accordingly in that paragraph after the words "electric line" there shall be inserted the words "other than a service line", and the words "and except so much of any service line as is necessarily so placed for the purpose of supply" shall be omitted.
§ 4.17 p.m.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to add to the clause:
Provided that there shall be reserved to the local authority a right to request the Minister to hold a public local inquiry before any service line is placed above ground except within premises in the sole occupation or control of the Generating Board or Area Board.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I have put down this Amendment as an alternative to the one that immediately follows it, to leave out Clause 30. On the Committee stage I moved to leave out Clause 30 because in my view it takes away a safeguard to the amenities of an area that have been in existence ever since 1899. So far as I could see—for I did not know then, and I do not know now whether I am right or wrong—it appears that the literal interpretation is that any service line can go over-ground and nobody's permission need be asked from the planning angle. The noble Lord said it was there only to remove an ambiguity. I could not follow whether he told us what the ambiguity was. I read in Hansard what the noble Lord said, but I could not find that he explained what is the ambiguity. I do not mind, however, so long as there is the reference that I have in my proviso.
§ I am not wedded to that language so long as the noble Lord will accept the principle. I do not suppose that it will 150 alter the procedure that has gone on, because many of these service lines are near yards; and at present "rubber-stamp" permission is given. Unfortunately, a service line is a line that serves any single consumer and it can therefore be miles long. I do not think the necessity for planning permission should be entirely removed in respect of any electricity line which goes over-ground. So, if the noble Lord will accept the principle, if not the draftsmanship, of this Amendment, then, unless any noble Lord whose name is also attached to it wishes to move it, I see no reason why I need move the Amendment down in my name to delete the clause. I beg to move.
Page 29, line 46, at end insert the said proviso.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.]
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, It would be convenient if this Amendment and Amendment No. 9—to leave out Clause 30—could be taken together. I may, perhaps, be at fault because I was not sufficiently clear in the Committee stage on this clause and I should like, with your Lordships' permission, to try now to make the position clear. It is quite simple, even if it may seem a little involved. Clause 30 relates only to service lines and, as the noble Lord has said a service line is a line which serves a single consumer. It can be several spans long across fields, if it has to connect a farm; or it may be a single span between the overhead distribution line in a village street and a house in that street. There are as many service lines as there are consumers, and outside towns these lines are mainly overhead. If every one of these lines were to be the subject of a separate application for the Minister's consent, I am afraid that many people would have to wait much longer than they do now for their connection to the mains.
So, in practice, only the lines of several spans' length are the subject of separate application. The other single-span connections, such as those in a village street, are not plotted separately on maps, but the local authorities and others concerned, including my inspectors, take account of the need for these lines when application is made for my consent to an overhead distribution system. I can tell your Lordships that only a short time ago one of my inspectors recommended that I should 151 not consent to an overhead main because, though the main itself would not be objectionable, the service lines leading from it to the houses would be.
My noble friend Lord Conesford foresaw that there was a danger that the Amendment would lead the electricity boards to run service lines overhead from an underground main. This would be technically unsound and actually more expensive for the Boards. I can assure noble Lords that there is nothing sinister in the proposal in the clause, and that its intention is not sinister. But the provisions of the Act of 1899 are now inconsistent with the General Development Order, 1950, made under the Town and Country Planning Act, which makes it unnecessary to obtain planning permission in every individual case—which would indeed be unworkable. The wording of the Act of 1899 can be read as requiring my consent in every individual case. That would be equally unworkable, and I have already explained how, in practice, these lines are dealt with—namely, that all except the longer lines are considered as a whole when the application for an overhead system is submitted for my consent. There will be no change in that practical position in consequence of this clause, and no increase in the number of service lines put overhead. A legal anomaly will, however, be removed.
Now may I deal with the addition which Lord Lucas of Chilworth proposes to make to this clause? The noble Lord would add a proviso to the clause reserving to the local authority the right to demand a public local inquiry before a service line is placed above ground. It would be impracticable to require local authorities to receive notification of every individual service line. They are consulted, under Section 21 of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919, about the distribution lines to which the service lines are to be connected. They can therefore object to the route of a distribution line if it is likely to result in an unsightly crop of service lines in the wrong place. It is always open to a local authority to ask the Minister for a public local inquiry under Section 66 of the 1947 Act, under which the Minister has power to cause an inquiry to be held in any case where he deems it advisable to do so in connection 152 with any matter arising under the Electricity Acts. I suggest, therefore, that the noble Lord's point is substantially covered. In any case, it would be inappropriate to make the Amendment which he suggests because it would mean that the local authority would have to be notified of every individual service line, which, as I have suggested, would be an impracticable procedure. I hope that the noble Lord will be content with that explanation, and will not press his Amendment.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I think the House is greatly indebted to my noble friend for the explanation which he has given of this not very easy matter. I think, if I may suggest it to the noble Lord opposite, that neither of these Amendments need be pressed. Should any of the evils which the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, fears prove to have substance, I am inclined to think that the right remedy would be to obtain a modification of the General Development Order to which the noble Lord has referred, rather than to do anything with this electricity legislation. Speaking for myself, I have no hesitation in accepting what the noble Lord, Lord Mills, has said.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, neither have I. I am very glad that the noble Lord, Lord Mills, even to me, is beginning to be clear, so that I am now perfectly happy about this matter. I hope that to everyone else who has been rather "foggy" about this point it is now as clear as daylight. May I make this suggestion to the noble Lord? Perhaps he can persuade whoever he has to persuade that if the electricity legislation of this country could be consolidated and brought under one enactment poor laymen such as myself, and even experienced and famed lawyers such as the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, would not suffer the deceptions from which we think we suffer. I now beg leave to withdraw the Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ 4.29 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS moved, after Clause 30 to insert the following new clause:
§ Further provisions as to placing of electric lines
- (a) shall be in writing;
- (b) shall describe by reference to a map the land across which the electric line is proposed to be placed; and
- (c) shall state whether all necessary way-leaves have been agreed with owners and occupiers of land proposed to be crossed by the line.
§ (2) Where such an application made by an Electricity Board states that all necessary way-leaves have not been agreed as mentioned in paragraph (c) of the preceding subsection, the Minister, if he thinks fit, may give notice to the Board that he docs not propose to proceed with the application until be is satisfied, with respect to all the land over which way-leaves have not been agreed, that the Board have taken such action on their part as is mentioned in subsection (1) of section forty-four of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1926 (which enables applications for consent or authorisation under section ten (b) and applications in respect of wayleaves to be taken concurrently); and where the Minister gives such a notice under this sub section—
- (a) the Minister shall not be required to proceed with the application until he is satisfied that the Board have taken all the requisite action in accordance with the notice, and
- (b) the provisions of subsection (1) of the said section forty-four as to concurrent proceedings shall apply accordingly.
§ (3) Where an application for consent or authorisation under section ten (b) states that all necessary wayleaves have not been agreed, but the Minister does not proceed concurrently as mentioned in subsection (1) of the said section forty-four, the Minister, if he gives his consent or authorisation under section ten (b), may give it subject to the condition (either in respect of the whole of the line or in respect of any part of it specified in the consent or authorisation) that the work is not to proceed until the Minister gives his per mission; and in determining at any time whether to give permission for the work to proceed, either generally or in respect of a part of the line, the Minister—
- (a) shall have regard to the extent to which the necessary wayleaves have been agreed by that time, and
- (b) in so far as any such wayleaves have not then been agreed in respect of any part of the line, shall take into account any prejudicial effect which, in his opinion, the giving of permission (whether in respect of that part or of any adjacent part of the line) might have on any subsequent proceedings relating to the outstanding wayleaves.
§ (4) In the application of this section to Scotland, for any reference to the Minister there shall be substituted a reference to the Secretary of State."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this new clause applies to overhead line cases. Subsection (1) lays down the form in 154 which applications for the Minister's consent are to be made under Section 10 (b) of the 1899 Schedule. Under Section 44 of the 1926 Act it is permissible for an Electricity Board to take steps to have a hearing of wayleave matters and an application for general consent to the route of lines dealt with simultaneously. Subsection (2) revises this and gives the Minister an initiative in this matter also. On occasion this would be of advantage to owners and occupiers by saving them time and expense, but I must emphasise that it would be unsuitable for long lengths of line. Where on public grounds there is genuine doubt as to which of two routes a line should follow, so that a diversion may be necessary after hearing objection at the inquiry, much time and effort would be wasted and much inconvenience caused to owners and occupiers if wayleaves had to be negotiated before application was made for consent and they were afterwards found to be unnecessary because of the diversion. Apart from this, if it were necessary to hear at a public inquiry not only the objections of local bodies on public grounds but also those of some thirty or forty owners and occupiers on private grounds, the task of the person holding the inquiry would be extremely complicated, and it would be difficult to do justice to all parties.
§ Subsection (3) enables the Minister, where compulsory wayleaves are not dealt with simultaneously with a Board's application for consent under subsection (2), to direct that the erection of the line or any part of it shall not proceed without his permission. In determining whether or not to give his permission, the Minister is to have regard to the extent to which the necessary wayleaves have been agreed; and in so far as they have not been agreed for any part of the line, he must consider the risk of prejudicing proceedings in respect of wayleaves not yet agreed. The object is to meet the complaint that an owner or occupier of land who objects to granting a wayleave is prejudiced in pursuing his objections if pylons have already been erected on the land of a neighbour who has granted a wayleave voluntarily. The Minister could prevent this from happening by not allowing work to proceed as fast as the negotiation of wayleaves until it is certain that no diversions will be necessray as a result of objections further on. If, 155 for example, work is kept a few miles behind the negotiation of wayleaves, a diversion can be made more conveniently if necessary. This procedure would be suitable for long grid lines, to which subsection (2) could not usefully be applied, and should go some way to reassure owners or occupiers of land that any objection which they may make to granting wayleaves will be treated strictly on its merits before work has procedeed so far as to raise doubt in their mind whether it will be so treated. Subsection (4) adapts the clause for Scotland. I beg to move.
After Clause 30, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Mills.)
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, will the noble Lord allow me to pay tribute to him and to those who advise him for the great efforts they have made, not only in this Amendment but also in the next two, to meet the objections I made, which were rather clumsily set out in the Amendment I moved in the Committee stage? These Amendments are very satisfactory. The patience and care with which the noble Lord listened to the arguments advanced at the time have now been given literal expression, and if I have one or two comments and suggestions to make, I hope that he will not think that they detract at all from my appreciation of the efforts he and his advisers have made. I listened intently to what the noble Lord said and I am mindful of his difficulties. I shall try to help him to get over them. There is nothing of a political nature in any of the provisions of the Bill we are discussing.
I cannot see anything in this clause or in the two succeeding clauses, although I hoped that there would be, which will make it obligatory for the statutory undertaker to acquaint all those who might be interested in what I may call the embryonic stage of the proceedings. One of the troubles in the past is that so much of the work in connection with the siting of these 275 kv. super-grid lines has been cut and dried before anybody else knew anything about them. Experience has shown that when statutory undertakers, like Government Departments, have made up their minds about something, a vested interest is immediately 156 set up. Their minds harden as time goes on instead of becoming more flexible. The Minister has tried to bring in a safeguard, but, as I read these three Amendments, they are not a complete safeguard.
May I, with the indulgence of your Lordships, refer to Amendment No. 13, which sets into motion the whole machinery of the public inquiry? A public inquiry cannot be thought of until the Minister has received an application from the statutory undertaker, who then have to satisfy the Minister that they have done various things. If they have not, the Minister can tell them to go and do them and apply again. I wonder whether something could not be written into this clause to provide that the statutory undertaker, whether the Generating Board or an Area Board, should publicise their intention. When we come to Amendment No. 13, I am going to suggest to the noble Lord an Amendment to that Amendment which I think will go a long way to dispel his fears that there will be a flood of inconsequential objections, and will clear the minds of a number of people who have a great objection to the past procedure, which the noble Lord has gone a long way to alter.
The fact is that plans are made and become solidified in the minds of statutory undertakers before the public who are interested know anything at all about them. Interested parties will not know that there is a project until the Board publicise it in accordance with the procedure outlined in Amendment No. 13. Would the noble Lord be kind enough to consider that point? That is the only point I have to raise upon Amendment No. 11, and this new clause, in which I think the noble Lord has gone as far as he could reasonably be expected to go to meet the objections. But there is that one point. It is a difficult one, but I think he will see it. Could we have the publication of intention earlier, so that all those who want to object can be alerted, and then a procedure can be set out, if I may use the expression, to sort the wheat from the chaff of these objections. I do not expect the noble Lord can give an answer straight away. Perhaps his advisers may like to advise him on this matter. If he will give the same meticulous attention to this particular point as he has to all the others, I am 157 perfectly willing to leave it to his good judgment between now and the next stage of the Bill.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I should like to support what my noble friend, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has said. If the Minister can find any method of securing that advance publication of these projects is obtained, I am sure he will be doing a very good job from the point of view particularly of the amenities societies. There has always been too much secrecy about these matters in the past. I think it goes back to the old days when the railways were first being projected and when landowners were hostile and often also anxious to secure more than adequate compensation. It is known that the surveyors of the railway companies often had to go on to the land on Sunday mornings, when landowners were at church, in order to discover what was the best route for the projected railway. Unfortunately that kind of atmosphere has persisted, and it has certainly been the experience of the amenities societies that it was not until decisions had more or less been taken about running lines across that they were informed.
I remember the case of the north part of the Lake District, in particular, which was disturbing, and where it proved very difficult to get a modification at a late stage because so much work had been done that the technical people, who naturally have a sort of vested interest in the work they have done, were very difficult to shift, and understandably so.
If the project could, so to speak, be carried through in consultation from an early stage with all the people concerned, it would, I am sure, represent a great improvement in the situation and remove a considerable amount of suspicion which, unfortunately, the amenities societies have had about these matters from time to time in the past, and sometimes I chink justifiably so. I am glad my noble friend has made the proposal and I hope the Minister may be able to discover some method of acceding to it.
§ LORD MILLS
With your Lordships' permission, I think it might be appropriate 158 if I dealt with that matter under Amendment 13.
§ 4.44 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS moved, after Clause 30 to insert the following new clause:
§ Provisions as to construction or extension of generating stations
§ ".—(1) Where under section two of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909 which relates to the construction or extension of generating stations), notice, and an opportunity of stating objections, is required to be given to the local authority of the district in, which the land in question is situated, the like requirements as to notice, and as to an opportunity of stating objections, shall apply in relation to the local planning authority in, whose area the land is situated.
§ (2) An application for the consent of the Minister or of the Secretary of State under the said section two shall be in writing, and shall describe by reference to a map the land in relation to which the consent is required.
§ (3) In this and the next following section ' local planning authority ', in relation to England and Wales, has the same meaning as in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, and, in relation to Scotland, has the same meaning as in the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, the purpose of this new clause is to bring the law about Ministerial consent to the erection of power stations (Section 2 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909) into line with the law about consent to the erection of overhead lines (Section 21 of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1919) and in respect of the authorities to be consulted before consent is given. Before consenting to overhead lines, the Minister is obliged, under Section 21 of the 1919 Act, to give the local planning authority, in addition to the local authority, an opportunity of being heard. Although in practice the local planning authority is consulted before the Minister consents to the erection of a power station, such consultation is not a statutory requirement under Section 2 of the Act of 1909. Subsection (1) of this new clause will make it so. This is necessary because, under the next new clause, a public inquiry must be held if the local planning authority objects to the project.
§ Subsection (2) lays down that application for consent to the erection of a power station shall be in writing and shall describe the land in question by reference to a map. This provision is necessary for 159 the purpose of the next new clause about public inquiries. Subsection (3) defines "local planning authority" by reference to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, for England and Wales, and to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947, for Scotland. I beg to move.
After Clause 30, insert the said new clause.—(Lord Mills.)
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord a question? I expect it is my fault, but this is not quite clear to me. Do I understand that the noble Lord brings the procedure for the permission to erect a power station completely in line with the new procedure for an overhead line?
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
I am glad the noble Lord said that, because the drafting did not convey that to me. I thought that was the noble Lord's intention, because in subsection (1) it says, "notice, and an opportunity of stating objections". That has an old familiar ring. I did not think it went as far as the provisions of the clause we have just inserted into the Bill by Amendment 11. If I have the noble Lord's assurance that this clause brings the provisions relating to the rights of individuals and bodies to voice objection to the construction and extension of generating stations into line with their rights to voice objection to overhead lines, and into line with the machinery for listening to those objections and dealing with them by way of public inquiries, I am perfectly happy. Perhaps the noble Lord will give me that assurance.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, I think there may be a slight grammatical slip in this new clause. It says "notice, and an opportunity of stating objections, is required". I should have thought it should be "are required". But perhaps the point can be considered.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, might I, before the noble Lord replies to the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, say that I am intensely interested in this clause, and I am grateful to the Minister for all the 160 attempts he has been making to meet us. I want to ask a question, for clarification. It is true that the principles of existing legislation, such as the Town and Country Planning Act, are being followed. But subsection (1) says:notice is required to be given to the local authority of the district in which the line is situated, the like requirements as to notice, and as to an opportunity of stating objections, shall apply in relation to the local planning authority in whose area the land is situated.I look back upon the history of the Bradwell power station dispute. I live in an urban district across the water, but only two miles from Bradwell as the crow flies, and I was, therefore, vitally interested. I believe that practically the whole of the long-drawn-out preliminary negotiations were conducted through the Essex County Council, and it was only indirectly that the district council knew about it. The ordinary inhabitants did not know anything about the details, and the West Mersea Urban District Council never had any idea of what was going on until a public notice appeared that there would be an inquiry. That seems a late stage for people to be informed of what is going on. I should have thought that in some way or other, by administration or by a note in the Schedule, it would be possible to make sure that every local authority representing electing ratepayers within what the Ministry must obviously now be regarding as a possible danger zone ought to be notified when this is going on.
I am rather nervous about this wording, as to whether it confines the operation under subsection (1) to the town and country planning authority and to the actual authority, either rural district or otherwise, in which the particular piece of land is situated. In dealing with this nuclear bomb business there will often be half a dozen or more local authorities within the area likely to be affected by the operation of such a station who have no direct consultation at all, unless it happens to be done on their own initiative by the town and country planning authority approaching each one of them separately. The ratepayers get to know nothing about it until the final decision of the Ministry and the point where a public inquiry is held. I should like some improvement to be made there, if possible.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, dealing with the point raised by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, this new clause brings generating stations and overhead lines procedures as laid down in the new clause which forms the next Amendment, completely into line. The noble Viscount, Lord Alexander of Hillsborough, has raised the question of local authorities. It is the intention that all local authorities—not only the planning authority, but the local authorities—shall be consulted on matters relating to the territories which they cover.
§ 4.55 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS moved, after Clause 30 to insert the following new clause:
§ Special provisions at to public inquiries
§ ".—(1) Where an application has been made to the Minister for his consent or authorisation under paragraph (b) of section ten of the Schedule of 1899, or for his consent under section two of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909, and the local planning authority have notified the Minister that they object Co the application, and that objection of the local planning authority has not been withdrawn, the Minister (either in addition to, or in lieu of, any other hearing or opportunity of stating objections) shall cause a public inquiry to be held, and, before determining whether to give his consent or authorisation, shall consider the objection and the report of the person who held the inquiry:
§ Provided that this subsection shall not apply where the Minister proposes to accede to the application subject to such modifications or conditions as will give effect to the objection of the local planning authority.
§ (2) Where in accordance with the preceding subsection a public inquiry is to be held in respect of an application by an Electricity Board, the Minister shall inform the Board accordingly; and the Board shall in two successive weeks publish a notice stating—
- (a) the fact that the application has been made, and the purpose thereof, together with a description of the land to which it relates;
- (b) a place in the locality where a copy of the application, and of the map referred to therein, can be inspected; and
- (c) the place, date and time of the public inquiry.
§ (3) A notice under the last preceding subsection shall be published in one or more local newspapers circulating in the locality in which the land in question is situated, or circulating respectively in the several localities in which different parts of that land are situated, as the Board publishing the notice may consider appropriate.
§ (4) If it appears to the Minister that, in addition to the publication of a notice in 162 accordance with subsections (2) and (3) of this section, further notification of the public inquiry should be given (either by the service of notices, or by advertisement, or in any other way) in order to secure that the information specified in paragraphs (a) to (c) of subsection (2) of this section is sufficiently made known to persons in the locality, the Minister may direct the Board to take such further stops for that purpose as may be specified in the direction.
§ (5) Where in accordance with this section a public inquiry is to be held in respect of an application for the consent or authorisation of the Minister under paragraph (b) of section ten of the Schedule of 1899, and (whether in pursuance of subsection (2) of section (Further provisions as to placing of electric lines) of this Act or otherwise) the Minister is proceeding concurrently as mentioned in subsection (1) of section forty-four of the Electricity (Supply) Act, 1926, the public inquiry shall extend to all the matters arising in those concurrent proceedings, and any notice of the inquiry (in addition to any other matters required to be stated therein) shall indicate the extent of the inquiry accordingly.
§ (6) In the case of an application for the consent or authorisation of the Minister under paragraph (b) of the said section ten, where the application relates to land in the areas of two or more local planning authorities,—
- (a) in so far as any of those local planning authorities do not object to the application, no public inquiry need (unless the Minister otherwise directs) be held in respect of the application in so far as it relates to land in the area of that local planning authority;
- (b) if two or more of the local planning authorities object to the application, the Minister may direct that separate public inquiries shall be held in the area of each of those authorities;
§ Provided that for the purposes of this subsection a local planning authority shall be treated as act having made an objection if the authority have made an objection but the Minister proposes to accede to the application subject to such modifications or conditions as will give effect to the objection.
§ (7) Subsection (2) of section sixty-six of the principal Ac: (which relates to inquiries under that Act) shall apply in relation to inquiries held in pursuance of this section as it applies in relation to inquiries held in pursuance of that section.
§ (8) In the application of this section to Scotland,—
- (a) for any reference to the Minister there shall be substituted a reference to the Secretary of State; and
- (b) subsections (2) and (3) shall not apply, and for subsection (4) there shall be substituted the following subsection:—
'(4) Where in pursuance of subsection (1) of this section a public inquiry is to be held, and it appears to the Secretary 163 of State that in addition to any public notice of such an inquiry any further notification concerning the inquiry is necessary or expedient (either by way of service of notice upon any person or in any other way), the Secretary of State may direct the Board to take such further steps for this purpose as may be specified in the direction.'
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this new clause gives statutory effect to the undertaking I gave in Committee, that whenever a local planning authority objects to the erection of a power station or overhead lines a public inquiry will be held. The clause also codifies and makes some changes in current practice, particularly with a view to meeting the complaint that persons likely to be affected receive insufficient notice of inquiries into these projects. I am aware of the difficulty in regard to notifying people early enough, and it is my earnest intention that that should be done. However, I think we have gone as far as we can in laying down this procedure, which has been largely followed, and making it part of the Statute.
§ Subsection (1) of the new clause requires that when the local planning authority objects to an overhead line application under Section 10 (b) of the 1899 Schedule, or to a power station project under Section 2 of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909, the Minister shall cause a public inquiry to be held, unless the local planning authority withdraws the objection. At the Minister's discretion, the public inquiry may be combined with the opportunity to state objections which, under Section 2 of the 1909 Act, the Minister must give to owners and lessees of the land, to the local authority and (by virtue of the preceding new clause) to the local planning authority in power in station cases; or with the opportunity to be heard which the Minister must give under Section 21 of the 1919 Act to the local authority and to the local planning authority in overhead line cases. Before giving his consent, the Minister must consider the objections of the local planning authority and the report of the person holding the inquiry. The Minister will not, however, have to order an inquiry if he proposes to grant the Board's application after giving effect to the local planning authority's objections. I beg to move.164
After Clause 30, insert the said new clause—(Lord Mills.)
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR (VISCOUNT KILMUIR)
My Lords, to this Amendment there is an Amendment proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, and it may be convenient, if the noble Lord sees fit, for him to move his Amendment to the Amendment now.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I take it that, in moving my Amendment to the Amendment, I shall be able to speak upon the Amendment when the fate of my Amendment has been decided.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, after subsection (5) to insert:
(6) When in accordance with this section a public inquiry is to be held it shall be held by an independent and competent person appointed at the request of the Minister by the Lord Chancellor and any report or recommendations such person may make, the Minister shall cause to be published.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mills, will not think badly of me for putting down this Amendment. In this new clause he has met all the points that I raised rather strenuously on the Committee stage, except this one. Here I reiterate a point of principle. I am doing this in the interests of the Minister—I do not suppose he believes that, but it is true—because in my view one of the great criticisms of all these public inquiries that have been held into the erection of the super-grid lines is that the result is a foregone conclusion. The inspector holding the inquiry is a departmental civil servant officer of the Minister who has to live in the Department. In my view, and in the view of quite a number of other people, it is asking too much of human nature to expect that inspector to give an adverse report upon a proposal by the statutory authority under the ægis of the Minister. I make no attack upon the individual. In things like this I think we have to follow the simple rule that the advice given to the Minister—who must eventually give a quasi-judicial decision—to enable him to come to that decision should be independent.
I am not aware of all the arguments, but in my view they cannot hold water—the arguments against having an inquiry by an independent inspector and having his report published. In my view, there are precedents. I have one here. Under the Road and Rail Traffic Act, 1933, Section 15, subsections (2), (3) and (4), the Minister of Transport is required to set up a tribunal to inquire into objections to the granting of A and B licences for goods-carrying vehicles. The Minister must go to the Lord Chancellor. Subsection (3) says:
The members of the Tribunal shall be appointed by the Minister after consultation, so far as relates to the member who is to be chairman, with the Lord Chancellor …
I am asking here that the inspector holding this inquiry shall be appointed by the Lord Chancellor at the request of the Minister. After all, the sort of person required is not an engineer, but someone who is skilled in the reception and sorting of evidence.
§ Here we have a statutory undertaker who has a compulsory wayleave, and the only person who can say him nay is the Minister. Surely, the individual affected should be able to make his case before a court which he himself considers to be impartial. Whether the Minister accepts the advice of the man holding the inquiry is a matter for him. I have no quarrel with that whatsoever: the Minister must be responsible for the ultimate decision. But there are still some Englishmen in this country who believe that their homes are their castles, and if they are going to have pylons, super-grids, or even power stations, adjacent to or across their land, they should be able to make their case to a court which they believe is fair, and where justice will be done.
§ I can assure the noble Lord—though he knows this as well as I do—that the British public are quite convinced that these public inquiries are just "going through the motions"; that the thing is all finished and done with, and that they are just a façade of justice. That is not right. I can quote another example, again from my experience at the Ministry of Transport. The inspectors holding public inquiries into railway accidents are independent—admittedly appointed by the Minister of Transport—and they publish their reports. If they make recommendations to the Minister that the 166 railway shall do this or that as a preventive measure, and the Minister takes no notice of it, well and good; that is the Minister's responsibility. But at least the report is published, and the officials holding the inquiry are independent. I do not think I am asking a great deal. I would not say that this procedure is applicable to every type of inquiry that may be held where people's land or homes, or the amenities of the country, are at stake. But in this I do say that it is applicable, and I do not think it is necessary for me to go through the whole of the arguments that I have put up on many occasions. I think it would help the Minister. It is only common justice and it is not necessary, I think, in this House, to say any more than that. I beg to move.
Amendment to Amendment moved—
Alter subsection (5) insert the said subsection.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ LORD WOLVERTON
My Lords, I think this is a very important point. One of the difficulties has always been, of course, that the inspector is not allowed to publish his report before he sends it to the Minister. It must be a private report to the Minister, and the public do not know what his report is after hearing the case. Therefore, I think it would be a good idea if one could have at least an independent chairman who would be allowed to publish his report, though I agree that the final decision must rest with the Minister. That has always been a difficulty, and it was one of the difficulties with the new towns. Finally, I think it was deeded to have an independent chairman. The inspectors do their best in this important job, but I think it would give more confidence to the public if the Lord Chancellor could be asked to appoint an outside chairman so that he can publish his report and the public may know what he feels, having heard all the facts on both sides.
§ LORD AMULREE
My Lords, I should like to support the Amendment to the Amendment. Once upon a time I was in the position of holding certain public inquiries for one of the Government Departments. I am sure that I was honest and fair in what I said, but the parties might not have felt it was so, because there was no question of my report being published, or of the recommendations being made public. Even 167 though one knows that the inquiries are perfectly honestly and fairly carried out, the public have a feeling that justice may not have been done, and that I think we could ensure if this Amendment were accepted.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, I, too, should like to support the Amendment to the Amendment which my noble friend has moved. This is a difficult subject. My noble friend is undoubtedly right in what he said about people feeling that these inquiries by inspectors of Ministries do result in injustice being done on the sort of grounds that he has mentioned—namely, that the Minister is, in effect, judge in his own case. His own inspector goes down and holds the inquiry, and then makes a report which, as the noble Lord, Lord Wolverton, has pointed out, is a secret report.
I have been present at a considerable number of these inquiries, sometimes when practising as a barrister, sometimes in support of cases being put forward by one or other of the amenity societies; and I have always found that the feeling among the local witnesses was: Is there any point in our coming to give evidence at this inquiry when the inspector is bound to take the line which the Ministry favour? I cannot say that the conduct of the inspectors has ever really supported that view. I have always found that the inspectors hold the inquiries in a very impartial sort of way and put the sort of questions that one would expect a competent man to put in that type of case.
Nevertheless, as the late Lord Hewart used to say, it is just as important that justice should be seen to be done as that it should, in fact, be done. This is one of those cases where, I am afraid, it does not appear to the ordinary man that justice is being done. Therefore, it would be very valuable if some method could be evolved of ensuring that the inspectors who hold these inquiries are quite independent of the Ministry. This is a very big subject, and obviously the Government are not going to give way on this particular Amendment to the Amendment, because it affects not only this Bill but many other activities under other Acts of Parliament. However, as the 168 noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack obviously must be interested in this problem—he has come across it so many times—I am wondering whether it is not time that some committee of inquiry—or even a Royal Commission, because the matter is so important—should be set up to look at the whole of this problem. It is not only a question of getting an inspector who is independent but often a question of getting an inspector who is able to deal with the real gravamen of the case.
I remember a case a year or two ago, in the Lake District, in which the real question was whether the beauty of one of the loveliest valleys in the whole of the Lake District was to be spoiled by the extension of a quarry. There was a long inquiry which lasted for several days. I cannot remember which of the Ministers was concerned with it, but I know that it was not the Minister of Town and Country Planning, to whom Lord Strang's National Parks Commission report, and which was the Department which one would have expected to be necessarily concerned with this. It was one of the more technical Ministries who sent down an inspector, who had had considerable experience of engineering in one of the distant Commonwealth countries, so far as I remember. He was to preside. He was a very competent man in his own particular subject, but one would have thought he was the last person who should have been dealing with the question of interfering with the beauties of a Lake District valley. In due course, no doubt, this man reported to his Minister that this quarry ought to be extended—there were technical points involved, about the quality of the road metal that could be obtained from it—and in due course the Minister allowed the extension to this quarry. I have no doubt at all that, as a result, a stretch of a lovely valley in Eskdale will be seriously marred.
This is the very heart of the problem which is involved, but it may not be a problem with which the particular Minister who holds the inquiry is concerned. I feel that there are a number of matters here with which we are concerned and which it is time we looked at thoroughly and from different points of view. If the noble and learned Viscount could see his way before long to 169 have this whole problem considered, I should be very grateful indeed; and I am sure that many noble Lords and people outside this House would also be grateful.
§ 5.15 p.m.
My Lords, I agree with the noble Lord who has just resumed his seat that the question raised goes far beyond this particular Bill and concerns a great many Statutes. I also know, as I think the whole House does, the great knowledge and interest that my noble and learned friend on the Woolsack has always shown in this problem. I rise merely to ask a question. The noble Lord who has just sat down, asked the noble and learned Viscount if there could be an inquiry into this question. I was under the impression that such an inquiry was, in fact, taking place, by a body sitting under the chairmanship of Sir Oliver Franks. I rise to inquire whether I am right in my supposition.
§ THE LORD CHANCELLOR
My Lords, if my noble friend Lord Mills will allow me to answer these questions before he replies, I can say to Lord Chorley that, what he says is correct. A Committee under Sir Oliver Franks is giving specific attention to the more general matters to which the noble Lord refers. I want to say this—because I appointed the Committee. Although I cannot say when the Report will be published, I hope that it will not be long before I get a Report. As the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, said, that will, I hope, deal with the full face of the problem and allow me to consider it in its application to this field.
My noble friend Lord Conesford was good enough to say that I have an interest in this matter. It is one of which I am afraid he has heard me speak many times. I believe that one of the great problems that we have to face, quite irrespective of Party, is how we are to fit the position of the individual and the protection of individual rights—and with that I include the wider rights to which the noble Lord, Lord Chorley, has referred: the amenity rights to which the individual is entitled—into our modern complex scientific State. It is a great problem that we have to consider. I have risen only because I was specifically appealed to by two noble Lords. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, will consider that point. I have not the least idea what 170 solution the Franks Committee are going to put up. There are at least six solutions to this problem of which I can think, and it would be unfortunate if we tied ourselves to one solution before we had a chance of considering not only the recommendations of the Committee but the reasons which had brought the Committee to them. I hope that no one will be embarrassed further by my intervention. It was only because I was appealed to, and that I thought it would be useful to say something.
§ LORD CHORLEY
My Lords, with your Lordships' permission, may I intervene to say that I am grateful to the noble and learned Viscount Of couse, I appreciate that this matter is within the periphery, if I may say so, of the Franks Committee. But I should have thought it was no more than peripheral, and that a certain section of it was really outside their deliberations. However, if the noble and learned Viscount feels that the whole of this matter, on the lines that I indicated a minute or two ago, is within what the Committee are likely to report on, I am grateful to him and I hope that the Committee will be able to provide a solution.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor has dealt with one of the objections I had in taking this matter any further, because, until the Report of the Committee on Administrative Tribunals and Inquiries, commonly known as the Franks Committee, is published, the Government, obviously, cannot decide their policy. Therefore, I could not accept the Amendment of the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth. But I should like to say a word or two about the general situation. I should not like noble Lords to think that the inspectors of my Ministry do anything but a conscientious job.
I have listened most attentively to what the noble Lords, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, Lord Wolverton, Lord Amulree and Lord Chorley, have had to say on this matter, and I could detect through it all a kind of misapprehension of the position. There was a feeling that this man who takes the inquiry, being an employee of the Ministry, is prejudiced in favour of the Ministry's case. But the Ministry have not got a case. The Minister is finding out what 171 are the facts in order that he can do what I look upon as his double duty—to ensure on the one hand, that the Electricity Authority supply electricity where it is needed, and, on the other, that they do justice to the people with whose land and whose amenities they are dealing. Therefore there is no question, to my mind, of anyone being biased in favour of the Ministry, because the Minister has a job to do—to decide what is the right thing. Therefore he uses his inspector. Please do not forget that the Minister also has the responsibility of seeing that the Authority supply electricity where it is needed. I have listened most carefully to this debate. I have assured noble Lords before that this question of procedure has my urgent attention, and it will continue so to have.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, with great respect to my noble friend I want this public inquiry presided over by an independent person, with a report specifically related to this particular Bill dealing with this particular subject. Whatever your Lordships decide, one way or the other, it will not prejudice the Oliver Franks Committee recommendations or their considerations, any more than does the fact that there is an independent public inquiry held by a barrister appointed by the Lord Chancellor who presides over a traffic court to decide applications in regard to the granting of A and B licences.
I do not want red herrings drawn over this trail. This is a simple issue, and if what the noble Lord the Minister says is correct, why does he not agree to have an impartial and independent individual presiding over this inquiry, if his inspector, who is a technical engineer and has to preside over a court where barristers appear to argue the case for the objectors, is quite capable of making an impartial report to the Minister? The Minister is satisfied that the man is impartial. With great respect, the bulk of the British people are quite convinced to the contrary. If the Minister really wants to arrive at an impartial judgment—and I accept that he does—why does he not agree to receive an impartial report? I should have thought the case was made. That is my case. Subject to anything that any other noble Lord says, I feel 172 so strongly that I am indicating the feelings of the vast bulk of the British public, that I really must ask your Lordships to express your view one way or another in the Division Lobby.
§ 5.24 p.m.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, before we go to a Division, which it is quite obvious that we shall have to do, unless the Minister can meet us, I want to reiterate what my noble friend said about there being no desire on our part to spread a general principle very widely. In my time I have appeared before a great many local inquiries, often representing a section of objectors. We have never raised any objections in those cases to an inspector of the Department, because the matters he was concerned with were so fundamentally different from what is covered by this Bill and the legislation of which this Bill will become part.
I come back again to the Bradwell inquiry. It is no good either the Minister, on the advice of his Department, or the Department itself arguing that there was satisfaction over that inquiry. That certainly is not so. I myself attended once or twice, and I felt that the inspector in the chair gave a perfect example of courtesy, care and attention to anybody who wanted to speak; and on that ground I have not the slightest complaint to make. But it is when it comes to trying to get the ordinary people attending to understand the argument going on between learned counsel for the statutory authority and learned counsel for a particular objector, and to be able to assess whether or not they should themselves, as individuals, give further evidence, that we lack the kind of judicial apprehension of the position one would get from a trained barrister sitting as chairman.
There were grave issues in the Bradwell inquiry. We do not know even whether there is ever going to be any outfall from that station. A number of interests which are affected in that area, including the great oyster fishery, may be seriously damaged. We do not yet know. Many people wanted to talk, but when you come down to an issue like this, in regard to nuclear energy, people are anxious, and they wonder whether they ought to say something at the inquiry. The one thing that would satisfy them would be a good independent 173 lawyer, or some similar person selected by the Lord Chancellor to sit in the chair—one who would be able to decide from the evidence, the submissions and the cross-examination, what guidance he, as an independent person, could give to other people who might or might not want to give evidence. I think it is fundamental that that aspect should be safeguarded. I am quite sure that the Minister will always want to be impartial. If an independent inquiry is held, he will have the best possible and most independent advice. I do beg the Minister, not to let this be the last moment of consideration in his mind upon this matter, because I am quite sure that this is not going to be the end of it.
§ LORD MANCROFT
My Lords, I am afraid it must be the last consideration of the Government on this particular matter. If the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, sees fit to take it to the Division Lobby, I am afraid he must, because we cannot possibly concede this point. Let us make quite certain why. I would quarrel with him, in the first place, when he suggests that many of these inquiries give the man in the street the impression that justice is neither being done nor seen to be done. I do not believe he is right there. I think we are at issue on a point which has caused confusion in his mind. This is not a case of a man being judge in his own cause. I will not open that case all over again; my noble friend Lord Mills explained that in detail. I think there is some confusion of thought between us. The two obvious reasons why we cannot possibly accept this Amendment are
§ these. There is, first, the repercussion on all other Government Departments and all sorts of administration if this provision were included in this particular Bill. Having been in office, the noble Lord himself must see that it would be widespread and extremely serious. An even more powerful reason is that put forward by my noble friend Lord Conesford. This is the matter that the Franks Committee have been discussing, and to put this into the Bill in advance of the Franks Committee's decision would be not only ridiculous in itself but would, I think, gravely prejudice what the Franks Committee might recommend. I am afraid there can be no half measures on this; we must resist it as strongly as we can.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, I must say that I expected a better explanation of the reasons than we have been given from the noble Lord. He simply said that he does not believe that Lord Lucas of Chilworth is right. He put forward no evidence as to why he is not right. I have given my personal opinion from experience at an inquiry of this sort. I do not ask for this principle to be extended. The noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, has already given an example of a previous Statute in which this principle is observed. Therefore, I cannot see that there has been any answer at all from the noble Lord in the last speech, which can affect our decision in this matter.
§ On Question, Whether the said Amendment to the Amendment shall be agreed to?
§ Their Lordships divided: Contents, 12; Not-Contents, 40.175
|Attlee, E.||Amulree, L.||Lucas of Chilworth, L.|
|Lucan, E. [Teller.]||Chorley, L.||Mathers, L. [Teller.]|
|Grantchester, L.||Rea, L.|
|Alexander of Hillsborough, V.||Greenhill, L.||Shepherd, L.|
|Kilmuir, V. (L. Chancellor.)||Fortescue, E. [Teller.]||Colville of Culross, V.|
|Gosford, E.||Goschen, V.|
|Home, E. (L. President.)||Morley, E.||Massereene and Ferrard, V.|
|Onslow, E. [Teller.]|
|Buccleuch and Queensberry, D.||St. Aldwyn, E.||Aberdale, L.|
|Selkirk, E.||Amherst of Hackney, L.|
|Cholmondeley, M.||Woolton, E.||Chesham, L.|
|Reading, M.||Coleraine, L.|
|Bridgeman, V.||Croft, L.|
|Albemarle, E.||Cherwell, V.||Digby, L.|
|Buckinghamshire, E.||Cilcennin, V||Dovercourt, L.|
|Fairfax of Cameron, L.||Mancroft, L.||Newall, L.|
|Fraser of North Cape, L.||Merrivale, L.||Thurlow, L.|
|Hawke, L.||Mills, L.||Tweedesmuir, L.|
|Joicey, L.||Milverton, L.||Waleran, L.|
On Question, Amendment agreed to.
§ Resolved in the negative, and Amendment to the Amendment disagreed to accordingly.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, now that we have just given expression to our slight difference of opinion, may I return to the more pleasant task of thanking the noble Lord once again for putting down this clause? I have one or two questions that I should like to ask him and one or two suggestions to make. In subsection (1), the noble Lord has tried to get over the difficulty of having a flood of irrelevant objections by putting upon the planning authority the onus of deciding whether to object to the extent of requesting the holding of a public inquiry. In so doing, he appears to me to have non-suited every other objector, because, as I read the first subsection of this new clause, if a local planning authority, having notified the Minister that they object to the application to the Minister for planning consent, then withdraw their objection, it does not matter who else objects the Minister is under no statutory obligation to hold an inquiry. Let us be frank about this. There are good planning authorities and there are bad planning authorities. There have been cases where a planning authority have not had that high-minded public sense of responsibility which would ensure their giving consideration to the possibility that there might be in their area quite a number of individuals with substantial objections. Unless the authority take note of those objections, these individuals have no chance of appearing; because unless the planning authority do make an objection there can be no public inquiry.
I have tried to find a way out of this difficulty, because it means that not only are private landowners and property owners non-suited, but so are local authorities, and so are public bodies. They are all non-suited and can be left high and dry, without a chance of saying a word, if the planning authority withdraw their objection. As an example, I will take the case of Oxfordshire. Let us suppose that the Oxfordshire County Council, which is the planning authority for 176 Oxfordshire, think it is useless to oppose an application to the Minister, and so no public inquiry will be held. One of the little Cotswold villages in Oxfordshire, led by the local council, can shout its head off, but unless it shouts its head off in the hearing of the Minister, it cannot get a public inquiry. Yet it is very jealous for the preservation of the beauties and the amenities of its area. I think also that individuals should have the right to object and do so at a public inquiry, if their objection is substantial and genuine.
I know what the Minister's difficulty has been. Unfortunately, there are a lot of cranks in this world, and they can be a nuisance and really contribute nothing substantial to solving the problem. I want to suggest to the noble Lord that he should put the onus of sorting the genuine from the non-genuine objections upon the planning authority, and that the planning authority should, if necessary, satisfy the noble Lord before they withdraw an objection of their own, that other objectors have a substantial case. So I have tried to frame an Amendment, and I am going to read it out so that the OFFICIAL REPORT will have it in print. I ask the noble Lord to consider this between now and the next stage of the Bill. I think it will meet his point. This is my suggested Amendment. I propose to leave out from the word "authority" in line 4 of this new clause to the word "the" in line 7,. That means leave out:have notified the Minister that they object to the application, and that objection of the local planning authority has not been withdrawn,and in place of the words omitted insert:after giving public notice; considering any objection that may be made and consulting with the local authorities, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England and other appropriate national and local bodies, have notified the Minister that there are objections by the Planning Authority or by persons aggrieved by the application or by the local authorities or bodies consulted and that those objections have not been withdrawn,The subsection would then continue as set out in the Amendment:the Minister (either in addition to, or in lieu of, any other hearing or opportunity of stating objections) shall cause a public inquiry to be held, and, before determining whether to give 177 his consent or authorisation, shall consider the objection and the report of the person who held the inquiry:That is my suggestion to the noble Lord. I put it forward for his consideration. What it does is this. First of all, it puts the onus upon the planning authority to consult in their area the local authorities—that may be village councils or rural district councils—and to receive objections from any individual, from the Council for the Preservation of Rural England or other national or local bodies of standing. Having done that, they can say to the Minister, "We have seen these objections. Some are genuine and some are not." It does not leave responsible local authorities high and dry if the planning authority first of all decide not to raise an objection or, after having raised an objection, withdraw it. If they want to withdraw their objection, the planning authority have to say, "Of course, these other people have not removed their objection."
At the present time, the private landowner whose amenities are impaired by a proposal to the Minister has a right to appeal to a public inquiry. It does not appear to me that he has that right under this new clause because the onus will rest upon the planning authority. I hope I have made the matter clear. If the noble Lord will be kind enough to give this point his consideration in the interval between this and the next stage of the Bill—if I can afford him any help I shall be only too happy to do so—it will help considerably.
One of the points that I should like to raise is this. In subsection (2) of the new clause we find:Where in accordance with the preceding subsection a public inquiry is to be held in respect of an application by an Electricity Board, the Minister shall inform the Board accordingly; and the Board shall in two successive weeks publish a notice stating "—The Board have to publish a notice in two local newspapers. Would the noble Lord think of adding a few words making it obligatory for the Electricity Board also to give notice to all appropriate bodies—the planning authority and other local authorities—as they do now, so that their sole method of bringing their proposals to the notice of aggrieved or potentially aggrieved parties does not rest upon the simple expedient of a notice in one or more local newspapers? If the 178 noble Lord would see to that, I should be grateful.
May I raise one other point for the noble Lord's consideration? The noble Lord has said that when public inquiries are held, his inspector is accompanied by an inspector from the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I do not know whether that is a statutory requirement or just an arrangement, but as 99 per cent. of these inquiries are held on the issue of amenity it appears to me, without going over the ground we have just traversed, that an engineer is not wholly the right person to sit on an inquiry to listen to objections about amenity. I suggest that something might be put into the clause to provide that the inspector who holds the inquiry shall be accompanied by an inspector of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. I do not know whether that is acceptable, but perhaps the noble Lord would care to consider it.
That is all I have to raise on this very comprehensive clause. If I may reiterate, I think it is important that we maintain the right of objection by people whose amenity will be affected although they are not required to give any wayleaves. As I read it, and perhaps the noble Lord will confirm it, nothing in this new clause alters the obligation on the Minister to give a hearing to anyone who objects to a wayleave although the project will not run over his land, and there is nothing that abrogates his right of objection. Perhaps the noble Lord will be good enough to consider the point, which I think is one of substance. I want to meet his point of view about not being inundated with ridiculous objections; but if a public inquiry is held, anybody who feels aggrieved can go and state his case. It rests solely with the planning authority, however, whether an inquiry shall be held, and if the planning authority withdraws its objection, then all the rest of the objectors are left high and dry. I am sure that the noble Lord does not want that.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his helpful suggestions. I should like to say, first of all, that nothing in this new clause abrogates existing rights. The noble Lord's suggestion that where local planning authorities are consulted, they should be required in turn to consult local district councils, the 179 Council for the Preservation of Rural England and other appropriate bodies, is obviously a matter which I would have to discuss with my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, and I will do that before the next stage of this Bill. The same remark, I think, would apply to the noble Lord's suggestion that the inspector of my Ministry should always be accompanied by an inspector of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government. It has been my intention that that should be so, but before I could answer the noble Lord I should have to consult my right honourable friend. I will examine the noble Lord's suggestion that the Electricity Board should themselves consult with all the appropriate bodies.
§ 5.57 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS moved, after Clause 32 to insert the following new clause:
§ Preservation of amenity
§ ". In formulating or considering any proposals relating to the functions of the Generating Board or of any of the Area Boards (including any such general programme as is mentioned in subsection (4) of section seven of this Act), the Board in question, the Electricity Council and the Minister, having regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty, and of protecting buildings and other objects of architectural or historic interest, shall each take into account any effect which the proposals would have on the natural beauty of the countryside or on any such buildings or objects."
§ The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment is my reply to the clause for the protection of amenities (tabled in Committee by the noble Lords, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, Lord Lawson, Lord Hurcomb and Lord Merthyr). That Amendment was withdrawn in Committee on my accepting the principle of preserving amenities and agreeing to reconsider the whole matter. The present Amendment inserts a new clause, the effect of which will be as follows.
§ First, the desirability of preserving natural beauty and of protecting buildings and other objects of architectural and historic interest is established. Secondly, when the Generating Board or an Area Board formulate proposals relating to their functions, they must take into account the effect the proposals would have on such amenities. The clause goes further than Lord Lucas of Chilworth's 180 clause, in that account is to be taken of the effect not merely on any building which is the subject of an order under Section 29 of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, but on any building or object whatever, if it is of architectural or historic interest. The duty to take account of amenities is to be incumbent on the Boards both when formulating general programmes of reorganisation and capital development under Clause 7 (4) of the Bill and when submitting individual projects, such as power stations and overhead lines, for the Minister's consent; also in planning other individual projects for which statutory consent is not required.
§ Again, the Electricity Council, when considering the general programmes of the Boards under Clause 7 (4), must take into account the effect upon amenities of any capital development proposed. Finally, the Minister must do likewise when approving the Board's general programmes and when giving his consent to power station or overhead line projects. Thus, before substantial capital expenditure is incurred, its effect upon amenities will have to be taken into account by all concerned, not only at one stage but at two. This applies in the formulation, consideration and approval of general programmes and in the preparation of all individual projects, as well as in granting statutory consent to them where such consent is required. I beg to move.
After Clause 32 insert the said new clause.—(Lord Mills.)
LORD HURCOMB moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, after "beauty," where that word first occurs, to insert:
and flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest,
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I can assure the Minister that his enlightened approach to this question of protecting amenities has been very widely appreciated. On consideration, those who are concerned with the protection and conservation of the natural life which may be affected by some of these proposals feel that express reference should also be made in the Bill to this aspect. I hope, therefore, that the noble Lord the Minister will see his way, subject to any drafting corrections that may be
necessary, to accept the Amendments that stand in my name. I hope, however, if he does feel it necessary to alter the drafting, that he will retain the specific reference to "flora, fauna and geological or physiographical features of special interest". Those are all-important and somewhat distinct interests.
§ There is a precedent for this language in a Bill which received your Lordships' assent quite recently in relation to one of the Welsh schemes, and it seems to me far preferable to trying to find some omnibus phrase of vague significance and possible difficulties of interpretation. If the noble Lord is able to accept the Amendments as I have put them down, naturally I shall be well satisfied. If he wishes to consider them a little further, and to put down Amendments of his own at the final stage of the Bill, then of course I shall be happy to accept his assurance that that will be done and withdraw my Amendments.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, may I put one matter to my noble friend the Minister for his consideration? I should like to join with my noble friend Lord Hurcomb in thanking the Minister for this new clause and for his whole approach to this question. The drafting of the clause which the Minister has moved may be. I think, completely satisfactory, but I have one doubt which I should like to put to him in order that he and his advisers may consider it. The clause refers toprotecting buildings and other objects of architectural or historic interest.Those words are a great deal better than some words we considered at an earlier stage of this Bill, but I wonder whether they are appropriate and fully cover the protection of the amenities of the building. I wonder whether it might be held that they were limited to the structure of the building and the safety of the building; and that the question of the protection of the amenities of the building is insufficiently covered by the words as they stand. It may be that they are covered, but if not, I shall be glad if the point can be considered before the final stages of this measure are reached.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb, I can accept the principle embodied in his Amendments. I am advised that the 182 drafting should be slightly amended, and perhaps the noble Lord will permit me to put down a Government Amendment to the same effect when we come to the Third Reading. In reply to the noble Lord, Lord Conesford, I am advised that these words go very much further than the protection of buildings and include fully the question of amenities. I hope he will accept my assurance to that effect.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved, as an Amendment to the Amendment, at end to insert:
(2) The power of the Minister to give general and specific directions as to the application of any moneys comprised in any general reserve fund which the Electricity Boards are required to establish and maintain under section nineteen of this Act shall include the power to direct the Generating Board or any Area Board in the fulfilment of their obligations as set out in the foregoing subsection of this section notwithstanding that compliance with such directions involves a reduction in the net income accruing to any such Board.
The noble Lord said: My Lords, I also should like to thank the noble Lord for the Amendment he has put down: this now clause gives us all very great heart. Something in a Bill means a lot, but the spirit in which it is carried out also means a good deal, and I am quite certain the noble Lord really does intend, by the efforts he has made throughout the Bill, to see that these amenities problems in connection with the erection of the super-grids and power stations are fully considered.
When we discussed this particular matter on the Committee stage, the Amendment which I moved then had a subsection (2) which I wanted written into the Bill to extend the Minister's powers under subsection (5) of Clause 19, which allows him to give specific directions to the Generating Boards on matters relating to the establishment and management of the reserve funds. This is the first time the Minister is given specific power to give specific instructions and directions to the Boards. In other words, he can now say, if he so desires, that a line shall go underground and not over-ground, or it shall go in one place and
not in another. That is, of course, a great advance. I now seek to put in:
The power of the Minister to give general and specific directions as to the application of any moneys comprised in any general reserve fund which the Electricity Boards are required to establish and maintain under section nineteen of this Act shall include the power to direct the Generating Board or any Area Board in the fulfilment of their obligations as set out in the foregoing subsection of this section"—
that is, the clause the noble Lord has just moved—
notwithstanding that compliance with such directions involves a reduction in the net income accruing to any such Board.
That means that the cost of deviation above or below, to the right or to the left, can be met out of these reserve funds. The noble Lord did not put that in his Amendment. He must have some good reason why he did not do that, because he was heavily pressed on this point on the Committee stage. Before I see what I shall do on this Amendment to the Amendment, perhaps the noble Lord will be kind enough to tell me why he does not think it is necessary to have a specific reference to this matter as a subsection additional to the new clause he has just moved. I beg to move.
Amendment to Amendment moved—
Line 10, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will forgive me if I point out, in regard to his Amendment to the Amendment, that it is not quite clear to me how a direction to a Board to spend money from its reserves can be expected to result in a reduction in its net income. Ordinarily, expenditure from reserves would not affect income, although in order to build up the reserves once more the Board would no doubt make additional contributions from its revenues over subsequent years. That may be the point the noble Lord has in mind. However, what the noble Lord's subsection (2) evidently seeks to establish is the Minister's competence to direct a Board to incur unremunerative expenditure for the protection of amenities.
The new clause which the present Amendment introduces deals with the matter in a different way. It enables the Minister to withhold his approval 184 or consent to a general programme, or to an individual project, where he is not satisfied that the interests of amenity have been properly taken care of. So long as the Board pays its way, taking one year with another, under Clause 12, there is nothing in the Bill to prevent it from incurring unremunerative expenditure in particular matters. It may meet such expenditure from reserves, under Clause 19, as proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Lucas of Chilworth, but this is not the only possible method. It may, if it thinks fit, meet such expenditure from surplus revenues under Clause 21, or by borrowing, under Clause 14. Under Clauses 19 and 21 the Minister already has power, in consultation with the Treasury, to issue specific directions to the Boards; and under Clause 14, the Minister and the Treasury control their borrowing. But it would be inconsistent with the Board's commercial autonomy to fetter its discretion by specifying one method, rather than another; and I am sure the noble Lord appreciates that.
It would also be unsuitable to say in the Bill, as this Amendment to the Amendment proposes, that the Minister might issue directions which would cause a reduction in the Board's net income, for this would be inconsistent with the Board's Obligations, under Clause 12, to pay its way, taking one year with another. If amenities were specified, there could well be a demand for other matters to be specified. We must maintain the principle of Clause 12, because once it becomes subject to exceptions, it will not serve to quicken the Board's sense of financial responsibility, and so to increase its efficiency, with the result that the main object of the Bill will be defeated. Since, however, the Minister, the Electricity Council and the Boards will now have a new statutory obligation, in dealing with proposals and projects, to take into account the interests of amenity the Boards can provide perfectly well, under the existing financial clauses of the Bill, for any consequent expenditure which they may regard as unremunerative. I hope the noble Lord will be satisfied with that explanation.
§ LORD HURCOMB
My Lords, so far as I am concerned, I accept entirely the assurances of the Minister. I should have thought that normally in any major 185 scheme the additional cost of safeguarding amenities would be part of the capital cost of that particular proposal and would automatically be dealt with in that way. I think that some of my noble friends and some of those who have acted with me here have looked rather narrowly at this matter, because in the past there has been a tendency on the part of these undertakings to say: "Our business is to supply cheap and abundant electricity, and this is not part of that. We cannot do it, and are, in fact, debarred from doing it." The Minister has, by his policy and attitude, got rid of all that, and has, I think, removed what was a rather "canny" approach to the objects we have been advocating. I agree with him that his ultimate control will be to refuse sanction to a scheme which does not do the right thing. When, eventually, the Board come along and propose the right thing, he approves it; and the cost is met by whatever is the right way in accountancy to deal with that particular item. I think his clarifying statement this evening will have removed any fear that there was some catch about the formula in the Bill.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Mills, for his full explanation, which has quite satisfied me. However, I should like to ask him one question, to which I hope his answer will be an affirmative. Is he satisfied that he has the power to ensure that, where he does direct that the Area Board or an Electricity Board shall take a certain course, in the interests of amenity, and that increases the cost, the increased burden is not put upon a small section of the consumers of the area but is spread over the whole lot? That was the point of the line in my Amendment. There have been cases—apart from the major project mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Hurcomb—of minor projects, of a short length of line going underground because it was going to serve a remote district in a beautiful part. The case I have in mind is a beautiful part of the Lake District, where the Central Electricity Authority said: "If you want this to go underground you have got to pay for it, and we shall charge you more": the cost was not spread over all the consumers of the area. Is the noble Lord satisfied that he has power to prevent 186 that sort of thing from being done? Is he satisfied that he can ensure that any extra cost is borne by the whole of the consumers in the area, and not put only upon a small section?
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I speak again only with the permission of the House to reply to that question. It raises rather a different issue. Fundamentally, while the Minister has certain specified powers, which are clearly laid down in the Bill, the doing of right things in the right way depends, as the noble Lord knows only too well, on choosing the right men to carry out policy. I should be completely dissatisfied with any Board for which I was responsible which acted in a foolish way. I am not going to pretend that things cannot be done of which the noble Lord and I might disapprove; but, in general, I am satisfied that we have the powers to see that, in the main, things are done as they should be done.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord. Where I say in my Amendment to the Amendmentnotwithstanding that compliance with such directions involves a reduction in the net income according to any such BoardI mean that the Board would have to spread the extra cost over the whole area. I am grateful to the noble Lord for his explanation, and I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment to the Amendment.
§ Amendment to Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ First Schedule [Consultative Councils]:
§ 6.19 p.m.
LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH moved to add to paragraph 3:
The following subsection shall be substituted for subsection (9) of the said section seven:—
'(9) Every Consultative Council shall prepare and submit to the Minister a scheme for the appointment by them of committees or individuals to be local representatives of the Council for every county borough and administrative county within the area of the Board, or such a combination of both as may be agreed, and it shall be the duty of such committees and individuals to consider the particular circumstances and requirements of those areas with respect to the distribution of electricity and to make representations to the Council thereon and to be
available for receiving on behalf of the Council representations from consumers in these areas, and if the scheme is approved by the Minister the Consultative Council shall put it into effect.
A member of a Consultative Council shall be eligible for appointment under such a scheme, either as a member of a committee or as an individual, but membership of the Council shall not be a necessary qualification for such an appointment.'
The noble Lord said: My Lords, this Amendment follows from the reply given to me by the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, on the Amendment I had down about the Consultative Council. The noble Lord will forgive me for saying so, but when I read what he had to say I was not quite so satisfied with it as I was when I heard it. He has such an engaging way of talking that he lulled me into a sense of false security. I put this Amendment down because I believe that this is what the noble Lord really wants done. When browsing through the Herbert Committee Report, I read this in paragraph 458, under the general heading of "Local Representation":
The Act requires each Consultative Council to submit to the Minister a scheme for the appointment by them of Committees or individuals to represent the Council in various localities. We are bound to say that, given the extensive geographical area of each Consultative Council, it was perhaps inevitable that consumers remained ignorant of the existence of the Councils or have been somewhat cynical as to the ability of the Councils to appreciate their local problems. We consider that there is much wisdom in the statutory provision for the Councils to prepare schemes for local organisation and representation, but we would recommend that, as a general rule. Local Councils should be set up for each management district of the Area Board. We think that the right way to build up public confidence in the Consultative Council machinery is to shift the emphasis from the centre, which may be many miles away from the consumer, to the district from which the consumer is served.
No better thing could be said in favour of the Amendment that I have put forward. The noble Lord's reply to me may be that that is written into the Statute at the present time. But I can assure him that it is not acted upon, because in the areas with which I have made myself acquainted I do not know that there is any breakdown of the Area Consultative Committee.
§ If the noble Lord will accept this Amendment, or something like it, to-day, we shall get proper representation, area 188 by area. I do not mind whether it is the local management board area, the local authority area or the county town area, so long as it deals with the heart of the problem, which is to make the small local consumer conscious of the fact that he has somebody to grouse to. If he has somebody to grouse to, believe me, it is going to help the Minister a lot, because they will not grouse at him. I beg to move.
Page 36, line 4, at end insert the said subsection.—(Lord Lucas of Chilworth.)
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, I do not possess the charm of my noble friend Lord Mancroft, so perhaps the noble Lord will not think it necessary to discount what I am going to say to him.
§ LORD MILLS
It appears to me that there is no necessity here for any addition to the Bill. Under Section 7 (9) of the 1947 Act, each Consultative Council is required to prepare and submit to the Minister a scheme for the appointment by them of committees or individuals to be local representatives of the Council "in such localities as may be specified in the scheme." That is why I say that I think it is a matter for administrative action. Under the schemes at present submitted, each of the Consultative Councils has established a number of local or district committees, consisting of both Council members and co-opted members residing locally, the number of members of the committees varying from four to nine in the various areas. Particulars of the work and membership of these local committees are published in the Council's annual reports to be found annexed to the reports of the appropriate Area Board.
In the area of the Southern Electricity Board, to which I might refer, as I believe the noble Lord is interested in that area, the Southern Electricity Consultative Council has a scheme which provides for the appointment of one or more local representatives of the Council in each of the Area Board's twenty-two districts, to whom inquiries or complaints may be referred in the first instance. When these cannot be settled locally, they may then be referred to the appropriate one of the four district committees established by the Council, each covering a sub-area of 189 the Board, and ultimately to the full Council for the area. Thus, in every district of the Southern Electricity Board there is at least one local representative of the Council. I think this even goes further than the noble Lord's Amendment, which confines local representation to every county borough and administrative county within a Board's area.
If, for example, a consumer from the Isle of Wight wishes to make a complaint, he does not have to go, as was suggested, to the Consultative Council's Offices in Maidenhead. He will find the representative of the Council in his local district—namely, the Isle of Wight—to whom he may address his complaint. Moreover, the name of the local Consultative Council or district committee member is on display at each of the Southern Electricity Board's showrooms, and available on inquiry at each of the Board's offices. In this way, encouragement is given to the settlement of problems and difficulties at district level, and to co-operation between the district staffs and the local representatives of the Consultative Councils. I am satisfied that this is the right way of dealing with it, but if the noble Lord would like any particular aspect looked into, he has only to advise me and I will see that it is examined, and that he is satisfied where he should be properly satisfied.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
My Lords, of course the noble Lord, as usual, goes out of his way to give a full explanation about this matter. I live in this particular area, and I was entirely ignorant of any machinery whatsoever. Now perhaps it is my fault, but I have never yet been into the Southern Area Board's showrooms or offices, so I do not know whom I can grouse to. May I make this suggestion to the noble Lord? Will he have the name and address of the representative put at the bottom of every bill I get from the Electricity Authority? If he did that, no consumer of electricity could have the faintest complaint that he did not know. But I would suggest to the noble Lord that not 10 per cent. of the consumers of electricity in the Isle of Wight, or in any other area, know who their local Consultative Committee representative is, because they never go into the showrooms and they send all their payments for their bills by post. It may be that it is their fault that they do not go and inquire, but the noble Lord has sufficient knowledge of human nature 190 to know that they do not do it in that way. Would the noble Lord find some method, as I have suggested, because I have consumed electricity for years and years and I have never known where to go? I suspect the noble Lord, Lord Mancroft, may think, "If we put it on every account we shall get a whole host of complaints." But that is what the Consultative Committee are for.
§ LORD LUCAS OF CHILWORTH
It is no responsibility, I suggest, of the noble Lord, or the Consultative Committee, to say, "We will so organise our affairs and publicity that we do not get any complaints at all because nobody knows of our existence." Their job is to say, "This is our function. If you have any complaint, make it to us, and this is the person to make it to." I would suggest that the only method of getting the information into the home of every consumer is to put it on the bill. If the noble Lord will accept that suggestion, I am quite happy to withdraw my Amendment, because, as I suspected, the noble Lord has said that there is machinery in force at the present time. But I am going to say quite frankly that not 10 per cent. of the electricity consumers of this country know where to go and what to do when they want to make any complaint. With those words, I beg leave to withdraw my Amendment.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Second Schedule [Transitional Provisions]:
§ 6.31 p.m.
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, may I have your Lordships' permission to move Amendments Nos. 16 to 20 together? They are all consequential.
Page 39, line 33, after ("relating") insert ("to employed persons generally or").—(Lord Mills.)
Page 39, line 35, after ("relation") insert ("to employed persons generally or").—(Lord Mills.)
Page 39, line 36, leave out ("persons") and insert (" employed persons, as the case may be,").—(Lord Mills.)
Page 39, line 41, leave out ("references in the agreement") and insert ("in the provisions of the agreement, references (however expressed)").—(Lord Mills.)
Page 39, line 43, at end insert ("or to the Generating Board or to both of them, as the case may require.")—(Lord Mills.)
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, this is a transitional provision which provides that the new clauses about overhead line and power station projects and public inquiries shall not come into effect before vesting date. To apply them to inquiries in progress would, I suggest, be liable to cause confusion if the requirements of the clauses did not happen to have been complied with. By giving effect to these clauses from vesting date, time will, moreover, be given to the Boards to adapt their administrative arrangements where necessary, and the new Generating Board will be able to familiarise itself with what has to be done on the generating and main transmission side. I beg to move.
Page 44, line 52, at end insert—
§ ("Applications for consent or authorisation made before vesting date
§ 14. The following provisions of this Act, that is to say,—
- (a) sections (Further provisions as to placing of electric lines). (Provisions as to construction or extension of generating stations) and (Special provisions as to public inquiries), and
- (b) so much of the Third Schedule to this Act as amends section two of the Electric Lighting Act, 1909,
§ Third Schedule [Amendment and Adaptation of Enactments]:
§ LORD MILLS
My Lords, with the permission of the House I will move Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 together. They are consequent upon the new Clause 30B, 192 "Construction or Extension of generating stations." By the first Amendment the Schedule will insert in Section 2 of the 1909 Act the requirement that the local planning authority, as well as the local authority and owners and lessees of land, shall be notified of power station prospects and given an opportunity of stating objections. The second Amendment enables the Adaptation Schedule to make the necessary adaptation for Scotland. I beg to move.
Page 49, line 22, at end insert ("after the words 'district in which the land is situate' there shall be inserted the words ' to the local planning authority (within the meaning of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947) in whose area that land is situate', and after the words ' such local authority ' there shall be inserted the words ' local planning authority '.").—(Lord Mills.)
Page 49, line 24, after ("schemes") insert ("and with the substitution, for the reference to the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, of a reference to the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act, 1947.").—(Lord Mills.)